Atlas for Les Cévennes Biosphere Reserve


The French National Park and Biosphere Reserve Les Cévennes and the Adour-Garonne Water Management Agency have just published an exhaustive wetland inventory of the Mount Lozère area in the form of an A3-format atlas, composed of a series of 1:10,000 scale maps plus an exhaustive introduction that illustrates usefully several wetland conservation aspects addressed by a number of Resolutions adopted by the Contracting Parties during their most recent Conference in Valencia, Spain (COP8).

Mount Lozère, topping at 1699m a.s.l. in southern France, forms part of the Cévennes National Park and is known as the "dry mountain with a thousand sources", one of the hundred or so major wetland areas identified by the French National Action Plan for Wetlands. The mountaintop area was identified in the General Watershed Basin Management Plan (Schéma Directeur d'Aménagement et de Gestion de l'Eau) for the Adour-Garonne basin (one of six major basins in France) as a major "green area" of c.26,000 ha from where several major French rivers take their source, flowing to the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. The hydrological and socio-economic functions of Mount Lozère's sources, torrents, peatlands, riverine forests, ponds and wet grasslands are illustrated and explained in the text. Their role in producing good quality water in abundant quantity, as well as harbouring an original biodiversity set, is outlined, thus providing a good illustration of the themes addressed in Resolution VIII.12 on "Enhancing the wise use and conservation of mountain wetlands", in the context of "Integrating wetland conservation and wise use into river basin management" outlined in Ramsar Handbook 4.

The Atlas responds to the need to improve the understanding of the hydrological and ecological values and functions of these wetlands as a basis for sustainable land-use policies. This communications tool is addressed to land-users and managers, livestock breeders, land owners, agriculture and forestry socio-professional groups, local authorities, administrators and national institutions. It corresponds to urgent CEPA needs, outlined in Resolution VIII.31 that provides a "Programme on communication, education and public awareness".

The painstaking field work identified 1250 individual wetlands, covering together about 800 ha, and ranging from 0,02 ha to 86 ha in size. They correspond to 15 or so different habitat types according to the European Union "Natura 2000" typology. They harbour three protected and 14 rare plant species. Many of them fulfill specific socio-cultural functions for livestock grazing and provide landscape, archeological and ethnological values. Data about the individually mapped sites are held in a database and were used to assign the sites to three categories of importance, with over two thirds of the total surface (535 ha) presenting high functional and heritage values in the top category. This provides an impressive illustration of a wetland inventory and assessment, as outlined in the Ramsar framework for wetland inventory in Resolution VIII.6. The Atlas, a multi-authored volume, includes chapters on national and international wetland policies relevant for the area, human influences and management methods affecting these wetlands, a bibliography, species and keyword indices, and of the applicable legal texts. The Cévennes National Park has to be congratulated for this remarkable work. One wishes now that the major wetland ecosystems will be included by the French Ministry for Ecology and Sustainable Development in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance, according to the vision outlined in Resolution VIII.10.

-- reported by Tobias Salathé, Ramsar.

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